Decriminalization vs. Prohibition
The idea of Drug Prohibition made sense: lower the availability of drugs by the use of law enforcement. Unfortunately, Drug Prohibition means heavy costs while proving to be ineffective and counterproductive.
I was thirteen when I saw drugs for the first time. I was with some of my friends that live down the road from me. They asked me if I wanted to get high with them. At the time, I didn’t know what getting high meant, so I asked them. One of them pulled ut a long slender object, similar to a cigarette, but twisted on either end. They told me it was something special. I was still bewildered. They said “It’s pot, you know, marijuana?” Immediately I said no. I had seen several anti-dug commercials, all with the same motto, “Just Say No”. I felt so good about myself. I had done the right thing. I said no to my friends, which is a very hard decision to make at that age. I was not going to be one of those sad cases, where my life is wasted away. I was not going to be a crazed addict, who would stop at nothing to get a hit. I was not going to be dodging the law my whole life. I was going to be everything I wanted to be, and drugs were definitely not going to get in the way. I promised myself I would not end up like Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin, both found dead after overdoses, because I had the power to say no. I had read stories and seen news flashes about the side effects of some drugs. I had read newspaper articles about people in Rome, which is just a few minutes away, dying of heroin overdoses. I had seen people on TV that were alive, but were not conscious of their surroundings, because of drug use. Their lives were basically over. I had listened to speakers preach that drugs were one of the Devil’s tools. There was no way I would even consider ever trying them, because once a person starts, they can’t stop.
It was a few years later that I heard the other side of the story. I learned that not only were we losing the war on drugs, but that the war had been corrupted. The government was wasting money on something without a cause, or hope. It wasn’t long after that when I tried marijuana for the first time. I remember it well. I was with my sister, who was the only person that I couldn’t say no to. I took a hit. Within fifteen minutes, I felt the most exquisite feeling I had ever experienced. I felt as though I was in a different world. It was at this moment that I knew things would be different for me, but I was still unsure about it, because I had heard of the dangers of drug use. I decided to do a little research. I looked in health magazines, I looked in Rolling Stone magazine, and I read some computer articles about the sixties. I also casually talked to several people who had experience with drugs. It was through this research that I found out some interesting facts.
First was the mere cost of the war on drugs. The federal government spends billions of dollars a year on drug enforcement and billions more on drug-related crimes and punishment. The estimated cost to the United States for this war on drugs is $200 billion a year, or $770 per person, according to statistics posted by CNN, and that does not include the money spent by state and local governments. Despite this expensive effort to enforce drug laws, the result is rather poor.
According to the United States history, Prohibition has not only proved ineffective, but also counterproductive, when referring to the eighteenth amendment. Not only is the illegality of drugs today also ineffective, it leads to huge profits for drug traffickers, which leads to other crimes. Studies have shown that while the amount of money spent on the war on drugs has increased dramatically, so has the amount of drug use. A study conducted by CNN has shown a twenty percent increase in the use of marijuana.
Another interesting fact is that most illegal drugs are less dangerous, and could be legal. Even harsh drugs, such as heroin and cocaine are proving to be less dangerous. In fact, in the twenties, cocaine was viewed as a wonder drug. It was an effective pain killer, it relaxed the body and proved to dramatically reduce stress, yet it showed very few side effects. After a while, however, people started finding new ways to use it. These ways would not only perform the tasks the drug was intended to perform, they would actually give the person a euphoric sensation. However, these ways of using it were not as safe as using pills or soft drinks, which also had cocaine in them. People died after inhaling too much cocaine. The government had to take action, so they made cocaine completely illegal, taking away a very good drug.Heroin is also not as bad as was originally thought. Heroin, like cocaine, is a very effective pain killer. The problem with heroin is that it is highly addictive, and too much of it can kill. However, this is the case with many prescription drugs. Too much Tylenol could kill a person, as ibuprofen is definitely harmful in large amounts. If heroin was used strictly for medical purposes, and was not only prescribed by doctors, but also regulated by doctors, it’s use could be an asset.
There is also the issue of marijuana. Every year close to twenty thousand people die of alcohol related incidents. Each year close to thirty thousand people die of tobacco related diseases, either lung cancer or emphysema, yet there has never been a death on record that is directly related to marijuana. The only deaths related to marijuana have been murders associated with drug dealers and traffickers. If marijuana was legal, these deaths would cease to occur. Also, compared to the side effects of alcohol, the side effects of marijuana are minimal. The only side effects of marijuana are induced hunger and what is referred to as “cotton mouth”, which is a dry, pasty feeling in the mouth. The side effects of alcohol, however include nausea, possibly vomiting, loss of coordination, not to mention deterioration of the liver and stomach. Marijuana, like cocaine and heroin, could also have medical purposes. THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that affects the nervous system, can be used to counteract the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients. There is virtually no solid reason why marijuana should be illegal.
I personally believe that some drugs should be legal. If they are being used for medical purposes, the government should pass legislation tightening the availability of prescriptions for these drugs, not make them completely illegal, taking away their good sides as well as their bad sides.